Expansion and contraction in subtitling

While subtitling, sometimes the output text is longer than the English, which in turn is longer than the spoken Korean, Japanese or Chinese (Japanese writing might take more space per character, though).
This is a well-known fact to translators. They have to take it into account because they are paid by number of characters, so an “expansion” of 30% means they will get paid 30% more. We as Viki volunteers are not getting paid, of course, but still we need to keep an eye for it and adapt our subtitle length by condensing/shortening our sentences, to make sure the viewer has the time to read and comprehend. Written word takes more than spoken word to sink in anyway!

“FAQ” remains “FAQ” in German and French, but becomes “Perguntas freqüentes” in Portuguese, and “Preguntas frecuentes” in Spanish. The term “Idioma de la interfaz” will be smaller in English (“Interface language”), but much longer in Malay (“Bahasar pegantar untuk penelusuran”).
A number of languages, such as Finnish, German and Dutch, create single large ‘words’ to replace what is a sequence of smaller words in other languages. For example, the English “Input processing features” may become “Eingabeverarbeitungsfunktionen” in German.
Translating from English into languages such as Spanish or French can result in 20-25% expansion, while German may expand as much as 35%.
Here is the rate of expansion for some common language pairs.




This is excellent! Thank you @irmar

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